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Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective

September 17, 2012 /

LACMA
Los Angeles, California, USA
On view: September 16, 2012 - January 06, 2013

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

Price's work commands a unique position somewhere between sculpture and painting. This sculptural retrospective honors the late artist's creativity, originality, and revolutionary art practice.

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenBig Load, 1988Fired and painted clayStéphane Janssen, Arizona

For more than fifty years, Los Angeles artist Ken Price (1935-2012) made remarkable and innovative works that have challenged contemporary sculptural practice. It is only through assembling the entire range of his sculpture on the occasion of this retrospective (it has been twenty years since the last one), that we can see the essential unity of his sculptural practice - the connections that exist among different periods and styles. Price's work commands a unique position somewhere between sculpture and painting./Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art and curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition, featuring 100 works, traces the development of Price's sculptural practice from his luminously glazed ovoid forms to his suggestive, molten-like slumps, positioning him within the larger narrative of modern American sculpture.

The exhibition is designed by Frank Gehry, a close friend of Price's since the 1960s.

Ken's work has a sense of clarity and an unself-conscious sense of humor. It speaks volumes; it speaks of pleasure and love, and speaks of beauty without bravado./Frank O. Gehry, 2012

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

To situate his works within a sculptural context, the exhibition is installed in reverse chronology. The first gallery presents work from 2000 to 2011, including new sculptures from the last years of his life.

ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (4).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenVenus, 2000Fired and painted clayLaura-Lee W. Woods

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenZizi, 2011Acrylic on fired ceramicLACMA

In the late 1990s, Price began a new series of mottled sculptures, for which he has become most well-known. The work's surface is composed of roughly seventy layers of paint that he painstakingly sanded, each stratum uncovered as he varied the pressure of his sanding. The result is a lyrical composition of colors held together in a layered arrangement that is anthropomorphic.

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen
Balls Congo, detail, 2003
Fired and painted clay
Linda Schlenger

The middle gallery displays work from 1959 to 2000 and highlights each of the major styles of his prolific career including slumps, rocks, geometrics, cups, eggs, and mounds. While Price tended to progress in loose series, this large main gallery reviews his career in a broader and yet more integrated way, establishing connections and linkages across the years, rather than in simple series.

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (8).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen
ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (9).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenL. Blue, 1961Ceramic painted lacquer and acrylic on wood baseKen Price
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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenSlate Cup, c. 1972Fired and painted clayJoan and Jack Quinn

ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (11).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenReltny, 1983Fired and painted clayKen Price

ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (12).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenArctic, 1998Fired and painted clayThe Museum of Modern Art, New York

Finally, the last gallery displays three of the units from his 1970s project Happy's Curios as well as sculptures made in the last year of his life. Named after his wife Happy, Happy's Curios were comprised of large cabinets, filled with between eight and twenty or more ceramics mimicking the style of Mexican folk pottery. The recent sculptures in this gallery continue the speckled surface that has become iconic of his late sculptures.

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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen
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© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

After the Curios, Price's work in the 1980s became highly colorful and architectural, and returned to the more intimate scale of his eggs and cups. He explored differences between surfaces that were highly polished and roughhewn, and experimented with the impact of planes of color colliding to create forms. Building upon the advancements he had made in the 1960s, he focused on the articulation of architectural forms through color and shape.

ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (15).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik Nilsen
ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (16).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenHawaiian, 1980Glazed ceramicBetty Lee and Aaron Stern Collection
ken_price-sculpture-a_retrospective (17).jpg© Ken Price Photo © Fredrik NilsenOrange, 1987Fired and painted clayPhyllis and John Kleinberg

From 1991 to 2001, Price was a professor of ceramics at USC. It was during this time the hard edges of his sculptures melted into globular lumps and blobs and he developed his method of layering several coats of paint and then sanding them down to reveal each layer. In 2002 Price and his wife returned to Taos, where they built a new home and an attached studio. Five years later, Price was diagnosed with cancer and, after going through treatments in Los Angeles, moved permanently back to Taos, where he remained until his death on February 24, 2012.

The exhibition at the Resnick Pavilion, designed by Renzo Piano, is on view through January 6, 2013

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Photo: arcspace

The 288-page catalog introduces extraordinary new photography of all the sculptures in the exhibition, commissioned from Fredrik Nilsen, and Essays by Stephanie Barron, Frank Gehry, Phyllis Tuchman, Dave Hickey, as well as a compilation of interviews with the artist from 1980 to 2011 by MaLin Wilson-Powell.

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A craftsman knows what he's going to make and an artist doesn't know what he's going to make, or what the finished product is going to look like./Ken Price, 1993

Details

Catalogue:

Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective
Publishers: LACMA and DelMonico Books/Prestel
ISBN-10: 3791352555

After its presentation at LACMA, the exhibition will travel to the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (February 9 - May 12, 2013) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 18 - September 22, 2013).

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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